The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Published by Gallery / Saga Press on July 14, 2020
Genres: Horror
Length: 8h 37m
Pages: 305
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.


I had seen the cover of The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones around for a while as friends and mutuals added the book to their TBRs. Each time I’d come across it, I’d think wow, I really should pick that up. It’s an absolute shame I didn’t pick it up until three years later because this was such an impactful horror story. The set-up is perfect, letting the story unfold as the horror does – piece by piece until it is unavoidable.

This is really a tale told in two. The first portion, a psychological horror that left me wondering what was going on. Were the characters hallucinating? Losing their minds? We barely get to know Ricky when tragedy strikes. The story hasn’t been told yet. We don’t know what is going on with Ricky. Why is he seeing elk? And Ricky? He doesn’t have the time to understand or parse things through. He’s caught and trapped. Defenseless in a place that should have held relative safety. We don’t know it at the time, but there’s a reason for this.

Also in the first portion, we meet Ricky’s childhood friend Lewis. He’s left the reservation and has a stable job, a stable relationship. He is in a good place until he isn’t and we don’t know whether he is in the midst of a nervous breakdown or something more. This confusion is mirrored by Lewis himself who has no idea what is happening because the reality that is cannot match with the reality he has built.

This first half really works to create that sense of confusion and intrigue. Wanting to know what is happening and having ideas but not knowing what kind of book this will be. The second half cements what we’re going to get. And with that, the resolute sense of doom that things cannot change no matter how much you want them to. Boy, did I want them to. Despite not knowing much about their lives in the aftermath of the inciting even that happened as boys, I really felt a connection to Cassidy and even Gabriel. They are such tragic characters, though to be honest all four carry their weight of doom picked up during an ignorant youth.

I think the characters are what really makes this stand out for me, but everything else being so sturdy is what helps them shine. The structure is fantastic. Pacing moves from fast to moderate and back, building just enough tension to ratchet the doom up before letting readers relax into calm. Then there is the gruesome descriptions and gore. None of it is gratuitous. There’s a purpose for every description as it forces the reader to confront how unnatural and wrong everything that is happening truly is.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones is easily one of my new favorite horror stories. It is full of emotion, great characters, and wildly memorable scenes. If you can handle graphics descriptions of violence (and the result of said violence) against people and animals, definitely pick this up. If you can’t, maybe find a friend who can and have them dogear the parts to skip over.


Leave a Reply